70 x 7 The Meal Act XXXIX, Peterborough, 2015
Materials: Table setting for 500 guests, Royal Limoges porcelain plates (Two editions of Ed 250), silk jacquard table runner (Ed 30m), inkjet table runner (Ed 500m)
Dimensions: An open-air lunch in the city of Peterborough
Exhibition history: 2015 Cathedral Square, Peterborough, UK
Courtesy: Lucy + Jorge Orta, Metal Peterborough
On 20 September 2015, to coincide with the harvest moon and take part in a revival of Peterborough's 8,000 year-old agricultural heritage thousands of people descended on the town of Peterborough for an extraordinary public art event: Act thirty-nine of Lucy + Jorge Orta's ongoing series 70 x 7 The Meal. For the occasion the artists proposed an immense table setting for 500 guests, in Peterborough’s Cathedral Square. They designed bespoke dinner services of commemorative limited edition Royal Limoges porcelain and a silk jacquard table runner woven with gold thread for an ‘offering table’. On the offering table were giant bread boards carved by residents of the local prison HMP Peterborough and hundreds of loaves of bread baked by local residents, which the artists had cast into aluminium. As with all Acts, seven ambassadors invited seven others, and so on, thereby creating a chain reaction that ensured a diverse mix of guests were drawn together. Along side a public lottery, volunteers from Peterborough’s Soup Kitchen catered for hundreds of spontaneous passers-by. The menu, prepared by chef Lee Clarke, included ingredients sourced by Peterborough farmers, city allotments and community growing projects. Together with award-winning milliner Eloise Moody, five hundred loaves of bread were baked with provocative messages inserted inside, to stimulate conversations between diners. 70 x 7 The Meal was commissioned by Metal, a UK based grassroots arts organisation founded by Jude Kelly OBE, as a focal-point to Harvest, a weekend long festival. Preceding the Harvest weekend, engagement activities, open to the general public, included: bread making workshops, food tasting by local chefs, recipe sharing, urban gardening, corn dolly and flower arranging, Morris dancing, music, performances, art exhibitions, sound recordings, sharing of song, stories, traditions relating to the cultural importance of food. The project connected local residents with local food growers, producers and distributors, to re-establish a sense of pride in local production, especially as the region is considered the ‘bread basket’ of England. One of the ambitions of 70 x 7 The Meal was to reinstate the farmers market, an important economic and social gathering from the twelfth century until the 1960s, and the lasting impact was the social benefits of bridging links to the culturally diverse communities in Peterborough, many of whom are engaged in agricultural production, raising awareness of organic, locally sourced and healthy eating, as well as ancient traditions that historically have broken down cultural barriers and bind people together. As a result of the resounding success, Harvest was awarded the Love British Food 2015 Harvest Heroes award, in acknowledgement of people who organise the most imaginative and inclusive celebrations of local food and the harvest.